Lessons in how not to apologise from Donald Trump and Elon Musk
It takes guts to make an apology. We’ve all been there. Recognising that something we have said or done has caused offence or damage, or has been plain wrong. How you respond to those situations can make or break how people perceive you. It can regain trust and respect, but if not dealt with swiftly and adeptly can have precisely the opposite effect.
Timing is imperative. The moment that any backlash becomes apparent – which in the cases of Trump and Musk was immediate and widespread – urgent action is required. Waiting hours can be harmful, but leaving things festering for days (as Elon Musk has done) shows a flagrant ignorance for the issue at hand.
You need to be sincere. If a corrective statement is made with reluctance and reticence, it will not have the desired outcome. Again, with Trump and Musk, there is always a feeling of ‘I’ll apologise but it’s not my fault’. There is always an excuse, or apportion of blame. If you mean it, show that you mean it. Get in front of a camera. And quickly!
Once you’ve made your apology, in timely fashion and with meaning, clarify your remarks with something that will begin the healing process and restore faith and trust. Only then can everyone move on.
Politicians are especially fond of starting sentences with ‘let me be clear’, often a precursor for something that is anything but. If your messages and statements are carefully constructed, planned and prepared, with input from communications experts, then your comments will be clear from the outset.
No need for deleted tweets or belated, emotionless apologies. There’s also the question of getting the right spokesperson, but that’s another matter entirely…